Pressure Mounts to Go Nuclear
For many years, the development of nuclear weapons had been too sensitive, in light of Japan’s war history, to discuss in Japanese politics. However, that is no longer the case.
Japan’s new prime minister Shinzo Abe, has been one of the foremost proponents of a Japanese nuclear arsenal. In recent years he has maintained that Japan has the right to possess nuclear weapons and should develop them.
Since North Korea’s missile tests in July, nuclear arms have become the subject of serious and open discussion in Japan. The New York Times described this debate as an illustration of how the Japanese are coming to terms with their desire to become a “‘normal nation,’ one armed and able to fight wars” (July 22).
Talk of Japanese nuclear armament does not bode well for the United States.
Japan has been America’s staunchest ally in the Asian theater. One reason is the U.S.-Japan ampo treaty that ensures Japanese safety under American protection. Japan’s increased interest in providing its own security is a warning sign of a weakened U.S.-Japan relationship. In early September, former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who last year headed a subcommittee of the ruling party’s committee to revise Japan’s pacifist Constitution, “urged the Japanese to seriously discuss whether to go nuclear, taking into account the possibility that Japan could one day no longer depend on the nuclear umbrella provided by the United States under the bilateral security pact” (Jiji Press, September 5).
North Korea’s antics have given Japan’s leaders just the rationale they need in order to pursue a policy that would enable Japan to stand on its own. If Japan feels it cannot rely on the U. S. for security, it will have to take matters into its own hands—for example, by developing a nuclear deterrent. This prospect aligns well with Abe’s support of repealing or loosely interpreting Article Nine, the constitutional article that forfeits Japan’s right to make war. His “preemptive strike” rhetoric regarding North Korea broke down some longstanding barriers in Japanese thinking this past summer.
Given the political go-ahead, Japan could become a nuclear-armed nation almost overnight. Because of its dearth of natural resources, Japan has long relied on nuclear power. With the plutonium from its reactors, Japan could easily manufacture thousands of nuclear weapons. Add to that the fact that Japan already produces machinery to manufacture centrifuges and other highly precise instruments that are used in making nuclear warheads, and Japan’s timetable for producing a nuclear weapon shrinks to weeks—or less, according to Abe.
Why is this important? The Trumpet has long tracked mounting evidence of a developing powerful alliance among Russia, China, Japan and other Asian powers. Japan’s industrialization and strong economy put it in good stead to contribute mightily to such a force. With the nationalist Abe as prime minister, the current nuclear weapons discussions at such high levels are a precursor for Japan’s return to a militarily prominent global position.